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West Richland WA residents charged with COVID loan fraud

Two West Richland residents have pleaded innocent in separate federal court cases accusing them of fraudulently obtaining more than $800,000 in COVID-19 relief funding.

Andrei Stephanovich Borgheriu, 45, received around $500,000 for his trucking company, Artway Transport. But a grand jury indictment alleges he used most of the money not for his business but to pay cash for a house in West Richland.

The federal government is asking for the confiscation of the house.

Jimia Rae Cain, 52, also known as Jimia Rae Halbrook, received money for Americore Construction Inc. She said her alleged business started as early as 2017, but was not engaged in any business as of January 2020 and had no employees, according to an accusation.

She received approximately $330,000 in COVID relief funding, but was denied when she requested an additional $280,000.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Actprovided small businesses with money to help them deal with the economic impacts of the pandemic.

COVID loan strike force

In one program, the Paycheck Protection Program, small companies received loans for salaries and other expenses, which could be reversed if used for appropriate purposes.

In another program, the Economic Injury Loan Program, low-interest loans were granted to small businesses. Reimbursement could be postponed after the pandemic.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been loaned to businesses in eastern Washington through the programs, most of which have not been repaid, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington.

American lawyer Vanessa Waldref The Spokesperson’s Review

“COVID-19 relief programs were designed to support our community during the crisis, and due to the number of people and businesses applying for funding, some deserving small businesses were unable to obtain funding to maintain their activities in operation,” the U.S. attorney said. Vanessa Waldref.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has formed a COVID-19 Strike Force, working with law enforcement, to root out and prosecute loans fraudulently obtained under the CARES Act and “ensure that those who abused COVID-19 relief funds are held accountable,” Waldref said.

Loan to trucking company

Borgheriu applied for an economic disaster loan in the summer of 2021, agreeing to have the money used as working capital for Artway Transport.

Working capital includes payroll, sick leave, production costs, debt, rent and mortgage payments.

In August of that year, $500,000, less a $100 processing fee, was deposited into his Artway Transport bank account, which then had $3,100, according to court documents.

A day later, a title company opened an order for Borgheriu to purchase a property from 1710 Sunshine Ave in West Richland.

On September 1, 2021, a wire transfer of $450,283 was sent from the Artway Transport bank account to the title company.

Borgheriu was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of wire fraud and fraudulent claim, as well as forfeiture allegations.

Questions about the construction company

Cain was indicted by the grand jury on four counts of wire fraud, two counts of fraudulent claims, one count of bank fraud and forfeiture allegations.

She applied for a $265,267 Paycheck Protection Program loan and a $71,900 Economic Disaster Loan in the summer of 2020 for the Americore Construction Company. Both loans were granted.

She said in one of the loan applications that her business started in 2017, had three employees in January 2020 and had gross income for the previous year of $450,000, according to court documents.

Doe Fed Building Move.JPG
The US Courthouse and Federal Building in Richland. Tri-City Herald File

In another application, she said her business was established in 2019 and had seven employees and an average monthly payroll of around $106,000.

But there were no tax and other documents to back up his claims, according to court documents.

She did not apply for an Employer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service until February 2020 and did not receive a state business license until March 2020, according to court documents.

According to the indictment, Americore had no employees, expenses or receipts in the previous 12 months.

In April 2020, Cain opened a business checking account in Americare’s name with a $25 deposit, according to court documents.

Cain also did not file a federal tax return or an employer tax return from 2018 to 2020, nor does the state have a payroll record for those years, according to court documents.

Cain also falsely claimed in applications that he had no prior convictions other than minor vehicle offenses, according to court documents.

But the indictment says she had previous fraud convictions and four felony convictions, making her ineligible for an economic disaster loan.

Loan forgiveness denied

Cain applied for a second economic disaster loan, this one for $280,200, in May 2021, but was denied by the Small Business Administration.

In October 2021, she applied for loan forgiveness for the Paycheck Protection Program loan, but was denied by the Small Business Administration because she refused to provide requested tax documents, including tax returns. Americare’s revenue for 2019, according to the indictment.

The fraud charges against Cain carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison. The charges against Brogheriu carry a maximum sentence of 20 years.

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Senior Writer Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She was a journalist for over 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.

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